My hair is a dark mass of course curls. When left to its own devices it sticks straight up in clumps of wire like swirls. While I was growing up, it was never a priority and was perpetually swept up into the standard issue basketball practice bun directly on the top of my head. Now in my thirties and fully immersed in my identity as an androgynous queer woman, my lesbian haircut is one of the many things that makes me feel – well – the most me. There’s nothing like seeing yourself reflected to really open your eyes. Which is why I was both impressed and excited when Brit, our lovely PR contact from Visit Oxnard, asked me if I’d like to experience The Barber Shop during our time in Oxnard. The Barber Shop is a Victorian-era classic barber run by a queer barber and entrepreneur, Jackie Aldridge.
Most markers of masculinity on women have been considered an indicator of queerness for longer than I’ve been alive, but few more so than short hair. Unfortunately, salons and barber shops are intensely gendered. Any gender creative human knows the feeling of walking into a gendered space and not feeling like they truly belong in one gender or the other. We’ve come to expect it in places like restrooms and fitting rooms but there’s something about hygiene and personal care that society plants firmly into the pink or blue boxes as well. I can’t count the number of times I’ve walked into a salon and received the “are you sure you want it that short – you might look boyish?” conversation. Or it’s cousin, the “bad dad haircut” with little to no style in a barber shop fixated on toxic masculinity.
Which is why I spend so much time scouring the internet for multiple examples of hair inspiration and trendy stylists willing to cross the gender lines. Instagram tends to be my best friend when tracking down the exact vibe I’m hoping for. I also follow an insanely high number of androgynous people, primarily to stalk their haircuts. When I look into the mirror after a fresh fade – I literally see myself reflected. I know that sounds obvious and overstated but it’s a beautiful experience for a person who spent decades seeing an image reflected that didn’t match my innermost experiences of myself.
When I met Jackie, we immediately clicked. I loved The Barber Shop because it’s a unique glimpse into the past with upscale retro-style interior décor, including refurbished barber chairs from the early 1900s. Each chair has a story associated with its history that makes for entertaining barber chair discourse. But I also enjoyed the lovely vintage tunes, and the shiny bronze floor which when you look closely you realize is made of thousands of pennies. According to Jackie, the pennies were for good luck in their new business venture.
The shop offered a unique list of services including shear cuts, haircuts, razor lineups, hot towel shaves and cleanses, and beard trims and a royal shave. Guests are offered complimentary beverages with any barber service. As I received my cut we chatted about all the things I’m normally afraid to chat with barbers for fear they’ll judge me and make my self-care ritual of love an awkward experience. We chatted about our wives and being queer entrepreneurs and our mutual love for what I lovingly think of as lesbian hair. She offered me styling tips as we bonded over our commonalities.
For her, it was just another day at the office but for me, it was a moment of reflection on how far I’ve come in my comfort level with myself and a moment of expression. I deserve a self-care routine that fits who I am without being nervous or afraid to be in a space where I don’t feel welcome. Your style is one of the first things people notice about you. Your style silently speaks your truth to the world. For 20 minutes in Oxnard California, Jackie the barber whittled my truth into my hairline.